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Arizona native Timmy Allen excited for another trip to his home state as a Ute

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Utah forward Timmy Allen, center, goes up for a basket between Colorado guards D’Shawn Schwartz, back, and Tyler Bey in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Boulder, Colo.  

David Zalubowski, AP

TUCSON, Ariz. — When Timmy Allen was a star player for Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona, he was ranked as a 4-star recruit and depending on the source, was listed as the No. 1 or No. 2 recruit out of Arizona for the 2017-18 season.

Yet neither of his state’s top two programs offered him a scholarship, so he headed north to play for the University of Utah, where he’s been a starter for two years and leads the team in scoring and rebounding. He’s already made one trip to his home state a year ago and will return this year as the leading scorer in the Pac-12 Conference.

“For sure, it’s always kind of a thing when people go back to play their hometown schools. But life works its way for a reason, so I’ll do what I’ve been doing all season. And it’s going to be fun” — Utah forward Timmy Allen

He doesn’t exhibit any bitterness about being snubbed by the local schools, but does say there’s a little bit of attitude about playing those schools.

“For sure, it’s always kind of a thing when people go back to play their hometown schools,” he said. “But life works its way for a reason, so I’ll do what I’ve been doing all season. And it’s going to be fun.”

Allen and the Utes will play Arizona Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. (MST) at the McKale Center, the only arena where Utah hasn’t won a game since joining the Pac-12 Conference in 2011.

Last year, Allen had two of his better games playing back in his home state, as he scored 17 points in a 96-86 win over Arizona State, and followed it up with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in an 84-81 overtime loss to Arizona. 

“Playing down there is always fun because all my friends and family are there. It’s my backyard, so I’m looking forward to it,” Allen said.

While Allen has been one of the Pac-12’s top players this season with his 20.2 scoring average on 48.4% shooting and 7.7 rebound average, he’s coming off two of his poorest games of the season, including a season-low seven points at Colorado. 

“Awful, that was my worst individual performance of the year, which I’ll just grow from,” he said. “There’s ups and downs, it’s a learning experience, I’ve got to bounce back.”

The Utes are also looking to bounce back after a 39-point thumping at the hands of Colorado Sunday afternoon.

For the third straight game, Utah will be facing a team coming off a loss, in fact the Wildcats have lost two straight, a 74-73 overtime loss to No. 9 Oregon and an 82-65 loss to Oregon State Sunday when they were outscored 51-34 in the second half.

“We’re trying to find ourselves,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller after his loss to the Beavers. The Wildcats were ranked in the top 25 all season before that defeat. 

However, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak knows his team will be in for a battle Thursday night.

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Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji (22) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz.

Rick Scuteri, AP

“They’re as talented as they’ve ever been,” said Krystkowiak of the Wildcats, who have beaten Utah seven straight times at the McKale Center in Pac-12 play. “They get up and down the floor, they guard really hard, they’ve got a lot of great pieces. They’re super potent and do a lot of the same things we faced at Colorado.”

The Wildcats are led by 6-foot-11 freshman Zeke Nnaji, who leads the team at 16.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg and 6-3 freshman Nico Mannion, the son of former Utah Ute and Utah Jazz player Pace Mannion, who averages 14.3 ppg and leads the Pac-12 in assists at 6.3 per game. Another freshman Josh Green, a 6-6 forward from Australia, averages 13.0 ppg and 5.1 rpg. The other starters are seniors Dylan Smith (8.3 ppg) and Chase Jeter (8.1 ppg).

“It’s going to be a challenge regardless of what Arizona’s done previously,” said Krystkowiak. “When you step into their gym in that environment, it’s difficult and it’s going to be a great challenge for us. Hopefully we can be better this time out.”

After Thursday’s game, the Utes will head up I-10 to play Arizona State Saturday night (7 p.m.).

Utes on the air

Utah (10-5) at Arizona (11-5)

McKale Center 

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. MST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: ESPN-700 AM